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Rutgers students win award for redesign of campus walk in 2030 Master Plan

 Rutgers graduate Edwin Gano (left) and School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior Giovanni Caputo (right) were the only students to be given an award at this year's annual American Society of Landscape Architects meeting.  – Photo by Courtesy of Giovanni Caputo

Two Rutgers students have recently won an award from the New Jersey chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (NJASLA) for their design project. 

School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior Giovanni Caputo and Edwin Gano, who graduated as a Landscape Architecture major in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences last year, reimagined one of the designs for Rutgers' 2030 Master Plan. The plan includes updates to transit hubs, housing, student centers and athletic facilities to create a more environmentally green campus, according to The Daily Targum

Gano said they decided to take one of the main designs for Cook campus and Douglass campus, since the majority of the funding and focus was going toward the other campuses at the University. The original 2030 Master Plan drafted a campus walk through the aforementioned campuses that would essentially serve as a means of transportation for students.

Focusing on the fact that Cook campus and Douglass campus are known as the most “natural” campuses, Gano and Caputo turned the trip to each into a "garden" walk. The walk would include gardens and living lab systems, which are outdoor classrooms where students can learn about topics such as ecology, stormwater management and carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere. 

“We really wanted to encourage people to walk rather than just take the bus, to help promote that sustainable culture,” he said.

While Gano and Caputo mostly stuck within the confines of the walk from the 2030 Master Plan, these plans were generally not as detailed and flexible to change. Gano said he redefined the walk so that it would be based on where current gardens and living lab systems were on campus. 

Gano and Caputo were partially inspired by other Big 10 schools for their designs, since those universities were also working on ways to incorporate nature and the environment into their campuses. 

For the design report, Gano looked at the current bike lane system in New Brunswick in order to incorporate the overall community into the plan. He said since the city was very dense and underserved, there was not a lot of green space for the community to enjoy. 

“So we thought of our campus as … also a giant park for the community to use,” he said.

Another part of the design report involved student organizations on campus. Approximately 22 percent of the student clubs that were determined to be able to directly use the garden walk are involved with the environment or sustainability, Gano said. As a result, he looked further into existing programs at Rutgers in order to incorporate that with programming in the living lab systems. 

Besides walking, Caputo said he hoped that the project would encourage students to engage with nature. The garden walk would give students the experience of being directly involved, not only with the living lab systems, but also with maintaining the gardens. 

Many students had not heard of the Rutgers Gardens, so the walk would help to involve them more on campus, Caputo said. This differs from the original 2030 Master Plan, which envisioned a campus walk made entirely out of concrete. 

Regarding the award itself, it was given during the annual NJASLA meeting in Atlantic City. Caputo said while professional firms and landscape architects submitted designs for the award, they were the only students to win one of the awards. Ranging from the Garden State Chapter award — which is the highest honor — to honors and merit, the Rutgers team was able to win honors for their redesign of the campus walk.

Overall, Caputo said winning the award was an accomplishment because he was able to gain exposure to professional landscape architects, and even win over them.

“Winning an honors award while you’re going against them, it’s pretty impressive,” he said. 

Editor's Note // A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that 22 percent of all University clubs were involved with the environment or sustainability. This article has been updated to 22 percent of selected University clubs deemed able to directly use the Garden Walk. 

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